THE Office of the Ombudsman dismissed Cebu Provincial Board (PB) Member Celestino Martinez III from government service over the allegedly irregular release of P6 million to an unaccredited foundation 12 years ago.
But Martinez, who was mayor of Bogo in 2004, questioned the timing of the dismissal order, which was released close to the barangay elections in October 2016. He plans to seek reelection.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Provincial Director Gerome Gonzales served last July 28 Martinez’s dismissal order in Barangay Cayang, where the respondent is the barangay captain.
But Martinez was not there.
Martinez is Bogo City’s Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president, and it was his election as Cebu federation president that made him an ex-officio member of the Provincial Board.
Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale yesterday said she was furnished a copy of the dismissal order last Friday, July 29, but she has not read it yet.
She assured, though, that Martinez’s vice chairman will handle his committees in his absence. Martinez is the chairman of four PB committees: budget and appropriations; provincial properties; labor and human rights; and barangay affairs.
PB secretary Pulchra Acevedo said that Martinez was on leave yesterday and also last July 25.
Martinez, in a press conference yesterday, said the dismissal is not yet final as he has numerous legal remedies open to him.
A source who requested not to be named said that Martinez’s counsel filed a petition for status quo ante, in effect asking the Court of Appeals to maintain the state of affairs that existed prior to the dismissal.
Martinez questioned the dismissal order’s timing.
“The case is very old and why is it only implemented two months before the barangay election?” he said. Martinez is planning to seek reelection in his barangay, and eventually attempt to return to the PB via the federation elections.
He added that the case should have been covered by the Aguinaldo doctrine. In the Aguinaldo versus Santos case, the Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that a reelected official is considered cleared of any administrative liability for any alleged wrongdoing during a previous term.
The case happened in 2004 when Martinez was mayor of Bogo, and he won reelection in 2007.
“There is a resolved motion for reconsideration at the Ombudsman, but they proceeded to decide to send an order dismissing me from the office,” read a press statement from the Martinez camp.
Martinez is hoping that the court will grant their petition for him to finish the remaining two months of his term.
He said that Cebu ABC vice president Emerito Calderon was elected last May 9 as Samboan mayor and that the remaining ABC secretary and treasurer cannot take his place.
DILG’s Gonzales said the dismissal order will stay despite Martinez’s petition with the appeals court, but Martinez said he will wait for the CA’s decision.
In April 2015, the Office of the Ombudsman found evidence to charge Martinez and former Bogo City Treasurer Rhett Minguez with violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The ombudsman also filed an administrative case.
Minguez has already retired from government service.
Martinez, who was then the mayor, released P6 million to the Sikap Yaman Foundation, a non-government organization based in Quezon City, to supply fertilizer to rice and corn farmers in 2004.
The ombudsman, in previous reports, stated that the foundation lacked the required accreditation by the City Government. An undated memorandum of agreement between the City and the foundation made no mention of the project cost or schedules for the implementation of the program.
Martinez said in yesterday’s press conference that it was the Municipal Council that accredited the foundation and not him, being the mayor.
The Commission on Audit (COA) stated in 2006 that the foundation failed to liquidate the funds, failed to list previous projects implemented, and failed to submit accomplishment reports.
State auditors also pointed out that City officials failed to make representations with Sikap Yaman for the liquidation of the P6 million.
Sun.Star Cebu tried but failed to get a copy of the dismissal order from the ombudsman, Department of Interior and Local Government and the PB. Martinez also said he had failed to bring his copy when he called reporters for a press conference.